Don’t let the modest size of Robert Salas’s new book, Unidentified: The UFO Phenomenon,or its simple, almost generic title fool you. It happens to be one of the best UFO books I’ve read in years. Its two hundred and twenty-two pages take us on a personal journey through Post War History that is not taught in our schools, and in a manner that’s entirely his own. Then again, to the best of my knowledge we’ve never had a UFO author quite like this one, and the uniqueness of his book springs directly from a background rich in relevant experience, and one with a deep appreciation for the lessons of history.
The author’s purpose in writing Unidentified is put forward plain and clear in the introduction: “My objectives for this book are to review the secrecy, the distortion of the truth by governments, about the extraterrestrial life that is visiting our planet and us. It is mostly about us, our perceptions and our fears and how we are learning to accommodate this knowledge. It is also about being true to our ideals as we struggle to define what it means to be human.” And for this reviewer at least, the author succeeds in his goal. In three short pages in the introduction we are whisked through perhaps the best practical, extreme-capsule-history of UFO officialdom, projects and players that led up to the 1952 Washington, D.C. UFO flap. This, the author establishes, resulted in the decision that followed to establish a wide-ranging disinformation program in regard to the reality of UFOs. With this, we begin an account that has been many years in the making. And you embark on it without the aid of a road map; there is no table of contents to tell you where you are going. In most books this would seem to be an embarrassing lapse. Here it seems more a reminder that we do not know where this subject will be taking us in the future.
Chapter one, “A Nation of Secrets,” opens in 1960 with Air Force Academy freshman cadet Salas learning during a classified briefing that American ‘military advisors’ were now on the ground in Vietnam, but only as advisors who would not be involved in the fighting. Salient background on the conflict and the politics surrounding it are briefly reviewed here as we learn that the author volunteered for duty in Vietnam in 1965. He was also offered an assignment as a launch officer at a Minuteman Missile. He ended up accepted the later, a decision his life literally turned on, no matter which decision he’d reached. We then transition into the nature of governmental secrecy, a thread that weaves itself tightly around much of the book’s content. Post War History serves as a bridge here while some necessary discussion is given over to the 1947 Roswell incident and to one of my all-time favorite books on the subject, Witness to Roswellby Tom Carey and Don Schmitt. Some of the more extreme measures in keeping people quiet in the early days of the UFO cover-up are touched upon here, along with some of the nuclear anxiety that had settled over the American people. The author closes “A Nation of Secrets” relating something that happened to him in the Air Force that has a direct bearing on the secret-keeping process.
“Faded Giant – Revisited” again locates the author within the history of events his relates, here as a newly-qualified missile crew commander. He draws a memorable parallel from this to the October 1966 announcement that the Air Force had chosen Dr. Edward U. Condon and the University of Colorado for their UFO research project. The initiation of the U. of Colorado’s UFO study signaled the start of the USAF’s public dismantling of Project Blue Book and cessation of its official involvement in UFO studies. Faded Giant is referenced here, as was Salas’s indirect (and unaware) connection to the Condon Committee in the form of a fellow missile officer and what he’d learned during “a special UFO briefing” he’d attended. We’re also reminded that this was all going on as the University of Colorado’s Condon Committee assisted the United States Air Force in developing its strategic cover-up of UFOs.
Chapter three’s subject is “Extreme Secrecy” and discusses the kinds of secrecy government face and how classified information is prioritized and handled by a myriad of official agencies and offices. Activities that come under the significant heading of “secret science” are then introduced, as is the doctrine of “state secrets privilege” and its divisive impact on our chances of getting to the bottom of things: “The state secrets privilege is a judicially created evidentiary privilege that allows the federal government to resist court-ordered disclosure during litigation if there is a reasonable danger that such disclosure would harm the national security of the United States.” Being a mathematician, Salas presents us with the idea of ‘UFO Disclosure as a Zero-Sum Game (so well thought out), and on the continuing frustrations facing the Disclosure Movement, including this observation, “The public is not clamoring for action because they simply don’t know what or who to believe, and so they take the path of least resistance: indifference. As long as the UFO phenomenon is defined by confusion and conjecture, there will be nothing specific to demand of our government.”
A certain level of groundwork now laid, the author escalates the discourse in chapter four, “The UFO Cabal,” and in case you had any questions about the title being allegorical or actual, the first sentence is, “Yes, I am referring to a group involved in an international conspiracy of secrecy in control of the known facts about the UFO phenomenon.” But unlike many conspiracy-oriented arguments I’ve heard or read over the years, this assessment seems reasoned, logical, likely accurate, and fairly chilling. What follows in another relevant tangent is tracing the logical beginnings of such a group back to the summer of 1947. The references cited here by the author are respected and established ones as he continues to build his case. In a few brief and noteworthy pages, key particulars of another era are encapsulated in UFO/Post War history. We draw down in the later mid-Sixties, about the time of the nuclear/UFO incident the author was involved in. The chapter closes with a series of thoughtful observations which appropriately serve to remind readers of the author’s military background and his ability to think strategically. How would such a Cabal have been organized? What would its major command and control elements be? We also review related matters such as facilities and equipment, retrieval and collection, analyses, evaluation, security operations, interpretation, industry liaison, liaison to the other intelligences.
In “The UFO Phenomena” some of the knowledge gained during the author’s almost-twenty-year-long study of this most evasive, mercurial topic is put forward in a series of arguments and thoughts. Salas, along with so many of the rest of us, is convinced that a number of governments have physical evidence of extraterrestrial visitations and that over the decades numerous scientists have examined such artifacts and related evidence of extraterrestrial visitations. That a ‘new’ science exists just below the surface of acceptable, official science, and that some of the advanced technology gained from the examination and study of ET artifacts has already been incorporated into our own technology. The chapter ends with some reflections on the craft themselves, extra-terrestrial entities, the abduction phenomenon, the nature of proof and the UFO phenomena, and some outstanding examples of people who worked to establish UFO studies as a legitimate area of scientific inquiry.
Chapter six is set aside for “The Stories of Others” and touches on one military-UFO encounter after another, including the Malmstrom AFB case and the 1980 Bentwaters AFB incident, a case that the author is very familiar with as am I. Immediately following in chapter seven the author accomplishes something remarkable, He gives the reader perhaps the best-informed and concisely worded twenty-five page overview of our nuclear history, beginning with an appreciation for the military culture’s strange affection for this horrific weaponry. I don’t think Salas misses an area of relevant interest in this chapter-within-a-chapter, commencing with the start of the nuclear age, then on to the concept of nuclear deterrence, nuclear crisis averted, toward zero nukes, accidental emissions, the ying and yang of nuclear deterrence, how would we account for our stewardship of planet earth, how did we get to that level, UFOs and nuclear weapons, and the connection between UFOs and nukes.
The final section is entitled “The World Set Free,” and opens with a quote from the visionary writer, novelist, historian and social thinker, H. G. Wells. It regards nuclear war and is from his book, The World Set Free, written in 1914. Salas states, ‘“Wells was able to capture the very real questions we face today. If we cannot solve this problem, we will be faced with the devastating answer that in order to move forward together, humankind must suffer the horrors of nuclear war? Or, as Oppenheimer said, “It is not for us to believe that we cannot achieve the objective (the abolishment of nuclear weapons).” Based on his years of study the author is convinced that the extraterrestrial visitors are “trying to shine a light on our nuclear weapons,” and based on my years of study, I couldn’t agree more. “Their intense and continuing interest in what we humans do with respect to nukes suggests the depth to which they understand our problem.” Through their own past experiences perhaps, but when all is said and done, Robert Salas sees “..the extraterrestrial presence as a positive impetus that, if recognized as a positive influence by the public, can help us not only to survive but allow us to demonstrate to them that we have the will, the intellect and the character qualities to continue on a peaceful evolutionary path.” Controversial words to some I expect, but worthy of the reader’s respect and consideration. I’m weighing them carefully myself.
“ET and Me” is a solid, chapter-long compendium devoted to the abduction phenomenon in its varying aspects and the author covers the territory well. But when I reached the final pages of the chapter I was quietly shocked to learn that this eminently rational, ‘real world,’ nuts-and-bolts individual I had been getting to know, to some degree at least, in the pages of his book, knew more about the UFO abduction phenomena than he had learned reading about it. It happened to Robert, when he was living in Manhattan Beach, California in 1985. His description of his experience is something I think you should read for yourself, and in his book, but I can tell you that his words, in varying shades of modification, are all but identical to hundreds and hundreds of accounts I’ve read or heard firsthand from individuals all around the world. The question that lingers for Salas is, “for what purpose were I, and so many others, taken?”
“The Last Country” is also the last chapter and moves to coalesce the wide-field thinking expressed throughout Unidentified, and his closing thoughts will be remaining with me for some time to come. I think they will be for you as well once you have read this unique and important book.